We started with 95, narrowed it down to 30, cut it in half to 15, and now there is only 6 writers left. It's play-off time in WRiTE CLUB!
Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a different (randomly selected) opponent, and brandishing a new 500 word writing sample. The bouts will be posted once a day...ending Wednesday...with the voting remaining open until noon central time on Sunday, April 10th.
Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.
The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader. Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below. Anyone can vote, as long as you have a Google ID or belong to Google Friend Connect. Anonymous voting is not allowed. It is customary to leave a brief critique for all the pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.
How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you. Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.
What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, there's also a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.
Your voting has an added significance because not only will the three winners move onto to the next round, the submission that does not win their bout but tally's the most votes among the losers will move forward as a wildcard selection as well.
Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark? It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.
Writer #1 is representing the Adult Short Story genre with 499 words. Please give a warm welcome to BonsaiBabe.
A twig snapped. His arm twitched, clanking the barrel painfully against his mouth. He sucked at his bloodied lip as he hid the gun under his leg and twisted around.
A girl, roughly his own age, stood nearby. Brown hair framed her mostly plain face. She stared at him for several moments.
"What are you doing?" she asked. He tested her tone for signs of fear and found none. She simply seemed curious, as if there were plenty of perfectly good reasons for him to sit in the bushes with a gun.
"Nothing." He turned away. "Go away. I want to be alone."
"Okay," she said as she crouched down. "What a great view."
"Seriously, you should go."
"Okay." Again, she made no move to leave. Turning to him, she added, "You're in my English class. I loved that poem—about the last leaf on the tree? Epic.”
"Are you crazy?" Aaron asked. He held up the gun. "You did see I have a gun, right? Why won't you go away? What if I shoot you?"
The girl dismissed the gun with a glance. "That's a lot of questions." She held up a finger for each answer. "My mom certainly thinks so. Yes, I did. I like it here. And ... you won't."
She waited for him to parse her response. Finally, he asked, "How can you know?"
"I've seen you around school. You're not that kind of person." She paused to trace a series of circles in the dirt between them. "So. I saw what happened yesterday," she said. "After school."
Aaron frowned. "Why don't you just mind your own business? I can take care of myself."
"Clearly," the girl replied. The collection of circles continued to grow.
Aaron said nothing. He would just have to wait her out. His feet started to fall asleep, so he sat down with his legs stretched in front of him. The girl did the same. Circles appeared and disappeared under her hand. Minutes passed.
It should have been awkward, yet it wasn't. Eventually, Aaron asked, "Don't you have somewhere you need to be?"
"Don't you?" the girl countered.
"Did you really like the poem?" he asked.
Just as confidently as she had sat down, the girl stood up. "Well, this was nice. I've got to get going. Thanks for the company."
Aaron scrambled to his feet. "You're leaving?"
"Yeah," she said. "I've got a test third period."
"Wait ... um ..." Aaron tripped over the words. She waited. "It's just ... I don't even know your name."
The girl smiled. "Maybe if you show up in English this afternoon, you'll find out." She looked at the gun, forgotten by his side. He flicked the safety on.
She raised her eyes to his. "I'll see you later then." It wasn't a question. She gave a little wave and walked away without looking back.
Aaron sat down again. The warmth of the sun on his back felt good.
Writer #2 represents the Adult Thriller genre with 500 words. Please welcome back into the arena Hunley.
Nobody talks to the fourth man in our Humvee, the one sitting in the back beside our platoon leader, the one who hasn’t said a word since we left base this morning. He’s the only one not wearing combat gear. Which is not to make the Humvee less crowded. We just don’t have armor to spare for prisoners.
He’s what has us all on edge, every one of us in this convoy.
It’s not bad enough that we’re escorting a gaggle of UN inspectors and their local interpreter, each one of them individually a pain in the ass. Not enough that our mission is to investigate another report of mass graves left behind by the insurgency, an insurgency that keeps coming back to life like a many-headed monster. No, like all that’s not enough to make my scars itch, we have to have this guide who’s the most messed up excuse for a human being we’ve come across. And we’ve come across plenty.
We found him starved and hallucinating after the last engagement. Psychotic break, the medics said. He couldn’t even tell us his name. We call him Aussie Ahmad because when he does talk, it’s with an Australian accent strong enough to curdle the cream in your coffee.
We only hang onto him because he claims to know where all the bodies are buried, so many bodies they have the UN team practically drooling over all the evidence they can take to a war crimes tribunal. Ahmad knows we won’t get rid of him as long as he’s so good at finding bodies. And he’s been turning them up like a regular cadaver dog.
When the road gets too rough even for Humvees, we pile out, with me in charge of Ahmad.
“There.” He points to a hill a couple of klicks away. “There are the bones. Lots and lots of bones. You’ll like them, Sergeant Devil.”
“What’s that Sergeant D-devil shit?” Our stuttering platoon leader again.
He’s asked that question before and I’ve answered it before, but I answer it again. “It’s his nickname for me, sir. Because of my scars.”
Or is it because of something else he senses about me? Something that makes me feel as off-kilter to him as he feels to all of us?
Our bomb-sniffing dog and her handler move to the front, following Ahmad’s directions, with me at his side.
The dog looks happy. She’ll find booby traps and get to play with her rubber reward toy. Or she won’t find anything and she’ll just have a nice stroll through the countryside. Probably her dog mind can’t wrap itself around the possibility of a bomb made of chemicals she hasn’t been trained on. Or that we might run into a nest of active shooters instead of dead bodies. Or any of a million other bad things that could happen.
“Must be nice to be a dog,” I say.
Nice to be a dog and not have any worries.
Enjoying a pair of talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward. Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each if you haven't already done so.
Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well. Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016.
Remember, this is WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!